by Eli Zimmerman
With the growing use of educational applications and online classroom software, student devices have become a ubiquitous tool for learning.
Online courses are becoming a popular supplement to — and in some cases a replacement for — traditional on-campus education.
With nearly half of undergraduate online students and 70 percent of graduate online students working full time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is not surprising that they’d prefer to take their education on-the-go.
Nearly 67 percent of students now use mobile devices to complete their online coursework, according to a study conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research.
Nearly every college and university student today owns a mobile device of some kind — a primary driver for universities to transition to mobile-friendly academic content.
Students Use Phones for More Than Talking
It’s arguably the case that today’s students do more with their phones than just make calls. Of those surveyed, 51 percent reported using their phones to access course materials, which tied with corresponding with professors as the most common use of a phone for an academic task.
Not far behind, 44 percent use their mobile device to interact with the university’s learning management system, 41 percent use it for research, 40 percent complete assignments on a mobile device and just about one-third use a phone or tablet to access lectures, according to the Learning House report.
As these trends continue, higher education institutions will need to adopt and develop systems that consider the needs of mobile users.
Create an Online Culture to Fit the Mobile Surge
Just because online courses and degrees have become commonplace in higher education doesn’t mean these programs are optimized for mobile access. But there are many ways that institutions can help students maximize their learning with mobile tools.
The Center for Teaching and Learning has created a checklist to help higher ed institutions better adapt their online classes for a mobile world.
For example, converting important class files to PDFs can make it easier for students to use materials, as other file types can be hard to access or read on a mobile device.
Blackboard also provides resources to guide best practices for mobile-friendly courses.
Mobility Blooms on Campus as Well
Online students are not the only ones in need of mobile services. Overall phone traffic on campus has skyrocketed up 19 percent in the past four years, according to a Google Analytics report from OHO Interactive, and this trend is sure to continue.
A case study at the University of Maryland-College Park found that 85 percent of students use mobile technology to interact with the university in some way — yet, only 13 percent of them were happy with the university’s mobile presence.
Installing more access points across campus is one way to ensure a stable connection for students and staff.
Other universities are choosing to develop one-to-one programs, allowing students to use their preferred study methods on reliable mobile devices that are already connected to the university system.
At Maryville University in St. Louis, administrators give all undergraduate students iPad devices to use for academics as part of a digital one-to-one program, which has taken off with incredible success.